The film begins with a close-up of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman). An on-screen text states that the place is Hyannis Port, Massachusetts in late November 1963. A journalist (Billy Crudup) arrives at the home that Jackie is temporarily living in. He tells Jackie that he is sorry for her loss. She notes it's been one week since the killing of her husband John F. Kennedy and the press is writing really horrible things about her. She tells the journalist that she will be editing this conversation. He tells her that is unlikely.
The interview begins and Jackie says she is glad she was with him (John F. Kennedy, whom she refers to as 'Jack') when it happened. The journalist tells her he was impressed with the tour of the White House Jackie did for CBS a few years earlier and that she could have been a broadcaster.
We flashback to 1962, over a year earlier, when Jackie is filming the special for CBS. Her social secretary, Nancy (Greta Gerwig) is there, reviewing some last minute notes with Jackie. We then see footage from the special which would go on to have an audience of 56 million people. Jackie talks about how she is acquiring historical items for the White House since nothing in it is older than 60 years. She assures the American people that the restoration is being done on her dime instead of through taxpayers money. She shows the reporter the room where they hired a conductor to play music for them. The reporter notes that the Kennedys seem to have an affinity for artists, musicians, writers, and poets.
In present day, the journalist asks Jackie about her faith but she doesn't answer. She tells him she was a reporter once and suspects he wants to know about the sound the bullet made when it collided with her husband's skull. We flashback to a week earlier where Jackie is on Air Force One on her way to Dallas, practicing a speech she'll give in Spanish. When her husband and her exit the plane, they are greeted by a large crowd. Lyndon Johnson (John Carroll Lynch) and Lady Bird (Beth Grant) meet up with them and they continue on to a limo.
In the present, Jackie tells the journalist, in graphic detail, what it was like having a piece of Jack's skull come off in front of her and his brains and blood in her lap. But she then tells the journalist he won't be publishing what she just said. He follows her suggestion and asks what the bullet sounded like. We hear a loud bang and see a motorcade racing the limousine to the hospital with Jackie and her dying husband in the back.
Jackie is back on the Air Force One, crying, wiping dried blood off her face. She is summoned and goes out to the conference room in Air Force One where Lyndon Johnson is sworn into office. This is an overwhelming thing for Jackie to witness given what she has just gone through.
Time passes and Jackie asks a Secret Service agent about the bullet. He says they don't know yet. She tells someone else that they need to hire the Irish Cadets for the funeral because Jack loved them. She is told that they'll be exiting from the rear of the plane to avoid press. Jackie doesn't want to hide but instead, wants to exit the usual way. She is told when they land, they will head to the hospital for an autopsy. This upsets Jackie who wants to know what will happen at an autopsy. Lady Bird asks Jackie if she wants her to help her change before they land since she is still in the blood-stained clothes. Jackie reminds Lady Bird of all the Wanted posters with Jacks face on them (stating he was wanted for treason) and wants all of his detractors to see what they've done.
The plane lands and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) enters. Bobby and Jackie exit the plane and ride in an ambulance with Jack's casket. Jackie wants the casket closed at the funeral but Bobby tells her hes not sure it can be since he was a Head of State. She tells him Jack's head was blown to pieces and she tried to hold his head together. Jackie watches as they do an autopsy on her husband. Jackie wonders who the shooter was. She complains that her husband warned her they were going to nut country but things had gone so well in the other parts of Texas they visited.
In the ambulance, carrying Jack and his casket back to the White House, Jackie asks the driver if he knew who James Garfield or William McKinley were. He doesn't know either. She asks if he knows who Abraham Lincoln was. She is told he won the Civil War and abolished slavery. Jackie notes that all three presidents died while in office but only Lincoln is remembered. She tells Bobby they need books on Lincoln's funeral.
Jackie goes into her bedroom in the White House. She finally takes off the bloody pink Chanel suit she is wearing and peels off her blood-stained pantyhose. She washes up in the shower, blood rushing off her face.
Back in present day, the journalist points out Jackie will have to get personal eventually because she'll be hounded until she does. She asks if he wants to be famous; he says no but she points out this article will bring him a lot of attention.
In the White House, Jackie is given a rundown of Lincoln's funeral which was a grand procession all over D.C. Jackie mentions how her husband would spend a lot of money on getting votes but would always complain when she bought paintings for her restoration project. The cultural advisor tells Jackie the worlds gone mad and it might be better if she takes the children and hides (so as not to get assassinated during the procession). Hes interrupted by Nancy who tells Jackie the children are awake. Jackie goes into Caroline's bedroom and explains to the children that their father has gone to look over their baby brother Patrick in Heaven. Caroline doesn't understand so she finally tells her that a very bad man hurt their father.
The East Room of the White House has become a mass, mourning the loss of JFK. John Jr. stands up and runs away but is scooped up by his Uncle Bobby. Afterwards, Jacks mother tells Jackie she expects her son will be buried at the family plot. Simultaneously, Lyndon Johnson's aide, Jack Valenti (Max Casella), argues with Bobby about the funeral, saying a procession is insane. He says he doesn't want HIS president (meaning LBJ) walking in public. Bobby tells him his brother is going to be carried in public regardless in a casket and then tells him to fuck off.
Jackie voices her concern that they wont have much money now that she has to return to the life of a civilian. She suggests selling back the furniture she bought from collectors in order to have enough money to put Caroline and John Jr. through college.
Back on the CBS special, Jackie admires a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, painted one week before his assassination. She shows off some of the furniture that used to belong to the Lincolns, as well as the Gettysburg Address.
Jackie comes into Bobby's office while he watches Lee Harvey Oswald on TV. She interrupts to tell him that she doesn't want Jack buried in the family plot. Jackie is then seen at Arlington National Cemetery, looking for the perfect spot for her husband.
In present day, Jackie says that she doesn't have a home. The journalist asks why she doesn't just live in the compound they're currently at. She tells him its cold there and he suggests lighting a fire and throwing a party. She asks why she would throw a party at that time. She says this house isn't hers and neither was the White House; every First Lady has to be prepared to have her suitcase packed.
At the White House, Bobby tells Jackie that they're worried an outdoor procession will be a security risk. But Jackie is firm that they have to march with Jacks casket. That night, Jackie revisits the Presidential bedroom and turns on a Victrola where a song from Camelot plays. She enters her own bedroom and goes through her wardrobe. Then she enters the Oval Office and sits at the Presidents desk. The song from Camelot finally ends.
Jackie walks with a priest (John Hurt) through a park. She tells him she thinks God is cruel. He says "God is love and is everywhere". She asks if he was in the bullet that killed her husband and if he's inside her all the time. He says, yes, and she says its a funny game for him to be hiding all the time. She asks, "what kind of God takes a husband from his two children?" And takes her two babies one in the womb and her baby, Patrick, 39 hours after he was born.
The next day, Jackie asks Nancy for a list of people attending the White House. Jackie tells Nancy she used to worry that Nancy was jealous of her which would have been ridiculous because shes buried two children and a husband. Nancy says she was once jealous of the dress Jackie wore in Vienna. Nancy promises to stay with Jackie despite her leaving the White House.
In the White Houses sitting room, LBJ, Lady Bird, Bobby and his wife watch on TV as Lee Oswald is being escorted to the jailhouse only to be assassinated by Jack Ruby. Upstairs, Jackie is getting ready for the procession. Downstairs, LBJ says they have to get a handle on the situation because its making them look like a bunch of barbarians. Bobby demands no one tell Jackie what has just happened. Simultaneously, Jackie is telling a secret service agent that she needs to talk to Lee Harvey Oswald, to find out why he did what he did. The agent tells her he doesn't know if she can but says no more. Nancy suggests Jackie and her children exit through the back to avoid the press. Jackie thinks the press should capture two heartbroken, fatherless children.
Jackie leads her children out to the front of the White House. A horse-drawn carriage with John F. Kennedy's body is parked in front. Jackie rides past photographers and mourners in a limo. When they get to the Senate steps, Jackie greets Lyndon and notes its an awful way for him to begin his presidency. Later, she kneels at Jacks casket at the Capitol Rotunda.
Time has passed. Jackie rushes into Bobby's office and yells at him about not telling her about Lee Oswald being assassinated. She feels she put her childrens life in danger knowing how easily people are shooting others when they go outside. She wonders if the parade is really to help Bobby when he campaigns for president. She now thinks its not worth putting their lives in danger over.
We find Jackie and the priest again, walking through the park. Jackie confesses she wishes shed had an ordinary job and married an ordinary man. The priest tells her God is working through Jackie.
Jackie is shown red carpet that has been laid down in the Oval Office, which is something she previously requested, along with green carpet in the Treaty Room which shes told was also added. She notes that her husband had thought her ideas about decorating the White House was a vanity project but she insists its to share the White Houses history with the public.
Bobby finds Jackie in the Lincoln Bedroom and tells her the following day, everyone will ride through the city and there will be no procession. Bobby notes that being in the Lincoln Bedroom reminds him that one man freed millions of people from slavery. He notes that its bad that their legacy was wasted. He fears Jack will be remembered for being a beautiful person but nothing else he might have handled the missile crisis but he also created it. Bobby wishes they had done more, like for Civil Rights and the space program.
Jackie walks around the White House and sees workers packing up all her belongings. Finally, Jackie joins in, walking around and begins throwing things into boxes. She finds Jack Valenti in Bobby's office, unpacking his own belongings while having simultaneously arranged for hers to be packed up. He immediately tells Jackie hes just doing his job. Valenti notes that he heard Jackie has requested a more modest funeral. Jackie tells him shes changed her mind and wants a procession again where shell walk to the Cathedral. Valenti debates that the country couldn't endure another assassination and tells her a lot of head of state will be there, including a general who already has been threatened. Jackie tells him to deliver the message that she will walk with her husband the following day, even if alone. And if the general is so concerned about his safety, he can ride in an armored car and the millions of people watching wont blame him. She then repeats what he said, stating that she's just doing her job.
In present day, Jackie tells the journalist that presidents will look up to her husband for years to come. He points out that her husband didn't do anything extraordinary like abolish slavery.
The procession takes place with Jackie appreciating all the mourners who have come out. She is then seen talking to the priest again, admitting that she thinks the event wasn't to honor Jack but for herself. She tells the priest that before she walked with the casket, she wrote a letter stating that she wanted to die. If she was shot while going outside, shed consider it a kind gesture. The march continues, with Jackie holding onto Bobby. In present day, she tells the journalist she has been lying when she says she doesn't remember the assassination. And then we see it John F. Kennedy is shot in the head and he collapses onto Jackie, who is covered in blood. Panic ensues. She tells the journalist she felt she could have saved him if she had stopped the bleeding.
Jackie asks to read the journalists notes and then begins making changes. While she writes in his journal, he tells her Jackie has left a mark on the country, which is going through a somber period because losing a president is like losing a father. He adds that she has been like their mother, especially with the entire country watching the funeral. He tells Jackie people will remember her for years to come.
Its a year earlier and Jackie is finishing the White House tour for the CBS special. Jack is interviewed and says he appreciates her effort to reacquaint people with the men who used to live in the White House before her. This is intercut with Jackie leaving the White House, watching Lady Bird go over fabric swatches, ready to undo all the decoration Jackie had worked on for years. Jackie and her children are loaded into a limousine and driven away.
Jackie now tells the journalist that Jack and her would listen to records at night before bed and his favorite was Camelot. Jack loved history and Camelot was about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. She states there will be other presidents but there will never be another Camelot.
The priest asks Jackie why she wanted to talk to him; she has confessed she wants to die but he tells her he is not burying her that day. He adds that there comes a time in mans search for meaning when he realizes there are no answers. The priest then confesses that every night, he goes to bed and wonders, Is this all there is? He theorizes that everybody wonders the same thing.
The journalist dictates the interview over the phone, to his editor. He then leaves, wishing Jackie a good night. We see Jackie with the priest again, telling him how the journalist wrote down every word and his article has been reprinted all over the globe. And maybe they'll all believe in Camelot now. Later, the priest gives a sermon in front of Jacks grave. He has been buried next to his two children that died.
In the White House, a plaque is mounted outside Jackie's former bedroom that reads "In this room lived John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, during the two years, ten months, and two days he was President of the United States.
Jackie rides in a limo through D.C. She notices a man carrying a mannequin over her shoulder that looks like her, that is wearing the same Chanel dress she had worn. She sees workers unloading dozens of identical mannequins from a truck, into a Macy's Department Store. The world has become fascinated with her.
We see another clip from the CBS special where Jackie says she's proud of her husband. She is then seen seated in the White House with her husband and Bobby as an opera is performed, as discussed in the CBS interview yet on the soundtrack, instead of the classical music, all we hear is Camelot.